Instagram users worry a new sensitivity filter is censoring their work

Instagram users around the platform share one central concern right now: that the app’s new sensitive content filter is blocking their posts. In posts on both the feed and in Stories, account holders are warning their followers that the setting is limiting their reach and that their followers should disable the filter to ensure their posts get through.

“Over the past 24 hours, I’ve had many conversations with artists and other creators who are incredibly frustrated by having their work hidden,” Phillip Miner, an artist and the creator of queer hobby magazine Natural Pursuits, wrote in a post. “Conversely, people are frustrated that they can’t find the content the want to see.”

An earlier post of his alerting people to the filter has reached over 700,000 people and has been shared 192,000 times as of this morning, he tells The Verge. People from all sorts of communities, including the art world, sex workers, tattoo artists, and the cannabis industry have picked up on it, sharing similar concerns, he says.

An account for a gun holster company makes a similar warning in its own post, saying content about “guns” and “capitalism” might be hidden. If there’s a unifying cause on Instagram right now, it’s around the sensitivity filter.

The sensitivity filter, which was introduced Tuesday, allows people to set limits around how much potentially sensitive content they might see on their Explore page. It’s supposed to filter out things like self-harm content, and it’s turned on by default.

But Instagram says that creators shouldn’t worry. The app already limited the amount of sensitive content people see on their Explore page, and the default setting retains that filtering. With the options introduced Tuesday, people can now either further limit sensitive content or allow more of it to surface.

A spokesperson suggests to The Verge that some users could even see a bump in discoverability because of this change if people opt into allowing more sensitive content on their Explore page. The change will have “no impact” on what users see in their feed or in Stories, “where we will continue showing them posts from people they follow,” the spokesperson said.

Sensitive content is defined by Instagram in its “Recommendation Guidelines,” which only pertains to content that is recommended in places like Explore and IGTV Discover and is much broader than its “Community Guidelines.” Content that is considered sensitive is still allowed on the app, as opposed to content that violates its Community Guidelines, but Instagram might surface it less frequently, particularly for users who set their sensitivity limits to the lowest level.

A spokesperson didn’t offer specifics around how much sensitive content users could expect to see in their Explore page at any of the three available settings.

Miner points out, however, that regardless of the filter, bucketing all sensitive content under one broad phrase is the bigger issue. His work often shows nudity, for example, which, if sexually explicit or suggestive, is considered sensitive by Instagram, but he says some people might be okay with nude art while also not wanting to see content that depicts violence, which also falls under sensitive content. The same could be said of tobacco-related content or content related to pharmaceutical drugs, both of which are considered sensitive content.

“What I would love to see is, there’s so much that falls under the umbrella of sensitive content, being able to tailor your experience more,” he says.

Instagram clearly attempted to give people more control, but it stayed too broad, at least in Miner’s opinion. The platform also isn’t clear with people who want to disable the filter as to whether they’ll suddenly see lots of unwanted weight loss content or violent images. Though ultimately much of Instagram won’t change with this new setting, the communication about it should.

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